Preview footage of Ion Assault suggested it would be a fairly traditional twin-stick shooter akin to... well... every other twin-stick shooter out there. When it proved to be something different it critically suffered somewhat for it. Damned if you do, etc.
Whilst it does sometimes get very hectic, Ion Assault is more a game of precise movements and carefully though-out routes. The right stick is used for orientation and aiming rather than simply firing directionally, and the player has to absorb particles to charge their main weapon which can then be released to destroy rocks and enemies in the enclosed arena that each level presents. The movement of the particles forces the player to maneuver a lot - and sometimes put themselves in heightened danger in order to gather enough power to fight with. Destructible pods drop bonus weapons - homing drones, time-stoppers, boosts to the absorbtion power of the ship to name a few - and each set of stages in a level is capped off with a technical and exhausting boss fight.
Now, I'll play any twin-stick shooter. Alongside cave-flying gravity games it's my go-to genre for zone gaming thrills. Still, I was more than pleasantly relieved when Ion Assault confounded my expectations. Aesthetically it completely does it for me - spaceships, funky colours, chippy music, particle effects. Gameplay-wise I find it tough and satisfying. I quickly grew to appreciate and enjoy what it set out to be, rather than disparaging it for not being what I expected.